Fresno State ceremony honors African-American high school graduates (video)

The Fresno BeeJune 1, 2014 

Clovis West seniors Jo Gbujama and Tyrren Parrish graduated a second time on Sunday.

The two friends already participated in their huge high school ceremony last week where they were two out of hundreds of students walking the stage.

But on Sunday, they stood among a smaller group of peers to celebrate their heritage and to acknowledge students of color, like them, for educational success.

Gbujama and Parrish were among 148 students from the Fresno, Central, Clovis, and Madera Unified school districts to be honored at the 21st annual African American High School Recognition Ceremony.

The San Joaquin Valley Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority organized the event, which was held at the Fresno State Satellite Student Union.

"The purpose is to recognize African-American students who might not otherwise be recognized at their schools," said co-chairwoman Lisa Nichols.

Statistics show that a very low number of African-American students graduate, Nichols said, "so we feel it's important to recognize them for their accomplishment."

Each student received a kente cloth, a colorful traditional woven stole, and those with a grade point average of 3.0 and higher received a medal. Seven scholarships were also awarded.

Tia Lewis, a graduate of Central East High School, was excited to be in the ceremony.

"I didn't expect to be part of something like this," said Lewis, who will attend Fresno State next year to study communications. "It is an honor to be part of this event in the fellow black community of Fresno."

Gbujama, a medalist who will attend the University of California at Riverside to study philosophy and pre-law, looked forward to the ceremony. His friends have been recognized at the event in the past and his mother, a Fresno State employee, has always encouraged him to participate when the time came.

"I really had no choice," Gbujama said jokingly.

More seriously, he added that "It's good to be in an environment where you see African-Americans graduating and being successful."

Also on Sunday, the Fresno Vietnamese Scholarship Foundation held a ceremony in Clovis to give awards and scholarships to students with high grades. This was the second annual award ceremony recognizing children in first to 12th grades.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, or @bonhialee on Twitter.

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